On Friday we started what's likely to be a five-part series looking at the 2014 Brewers as compared to a team comprised of former Brewers who are still active around baseball. Last week we concluded that the current Brewers have a clear edge at catcher, second and third base but trail slightly at shortstop and by a wide margin at first base.
Today we'll move on to the outfield, where some of the matchups are a little closer.
Right field: Ryan Braun vs Nelson Cruz
We'll open with a matchup of two players likely to be booed all over baseball in 2014. Both Braun and Cruz were suspended for connections with Biogenesis in 2013, although Cruz returned to play in the Rangers' one-game playoff when they finished tied for the final Wild Card spot. Even with the suspension, Cruz has averaged 27 home runs per season since 2009 and made two All Star appearances.
Even while he was hampered by a hand injury in the early part of 2013, though, Braun hit .298/.372/.498 in 61 games. In easily his worst MLB season, Braun's OPS was better than anything Cruz has put up in the last three years. Braun is just learning to play right field for the first time, and probably takes a step back defensively. But barring a franchise-altering event like another suspension, the 2011 NL MVP and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner is the clear choice here. Advantage: Brewers
Center field: Carlos Gomez vs Nyjer Morgan/Lorenzo Cain
The former Brewers actually may be wise to consider a platoon in center, with the left handed hitting Morgan starting against righties and the righty Cain serving as the fourth outfielder when he's not starting in center against lefties.
Both F-Brewers players are solid defenders and carry career OPS' around .700, and that might have been enough to compete with Gomez in this matchup until the last two seasons. Since Opening Day 2012, though, Gomez has appeared in 284 games and hit .273/.324/.487 with 43 home runs and 77 stolen bases in 90 attempts. He's one of just 61 players with 103 or more extra base hits over the last two seasons, and his defensive ability is night-and-day better than even these two good defenders. Advantage: Brewers
Left field: Khris Davis vs Corey Hart
Corey Hart's knees may not allow him to patrol the outfield for a full season anymore, but he'd have to play out there to get into the lineup on a former Brewers team that already has Prince Fielder at first base.
Davis burst onto the scene with a hot finish to the 2013 season, but is far from a known commodity as an MLB player with just 153 career plate appearances. If Hart is healthy then he's probably a safe bet to outhit Davis, and Davis' throwing struggles may make the two a wash defensively. If Hart isn't healthy, Norichika Aoki would give the F-Brewers a pretty solid backup plan. Advantage: Former Brewers
So, looking across the matchups, here's where we stand:
Current Brewers have major advantages at catcher, second base, third base and center field and a likely advantage in right.
Former Brewers have a major advantage at first base and smaller leads at shortstop and left field.
What do you think? Do you approve of the evaluation of these matchups?